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Time Added vs. Time Added Well

Standardized-test scores of charter schools vs. traditional public schools recently released in Chicago had surprising results: The charter schools that had added time to their schedules did not seem to produce much higher scores than the other public schools that had a shorter school year.

The news comes as the Chicago district looks to expand its school calendar this coming fall. In light of those Chicago results, an article in The Washington Independent a few days ago makes comparisons between schools nationwide that have implemented an extended learning time model and its impact on test scores. It finds an inconsistent correlation—some schools saw positive results with more time, but others did not. But the article also questions whether those scores can really measure the impact on student performance and general improved outcomes.

As a L.A. Times article reports this week, summer schools and summer programs are using time creatively to provide both enrichment and support academic achievement through "disguised learning." The camp-like atmosphere, the article suggests, can be more conducive to results. Across the country, schools that have moved to lengthen the calendar have used various models, from adding more time for core academics to hours of enrichment that often look like good quality after-school or summer programs. Some research suggests that enrichment can have substantial influence on academic outcomes, but many schools worry about the accountability benchmarks they need to reach based on state tests.

As much as districts are turning toward ELT with hopes of reducing the achievement gap, it seems just as many districts are continuing to reduce time because of budget cuts, so reports a New York Times story this week.

One justification for adding time has always been that many of our international "competitors" require students to attend school for longer hours and lengthened years. Yet it looks like South Korea is considering cutting Saturday classes in its schools to give more time for family and student enrichment, according to a piece from Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Parents quoted in the article expressed concern over halting the Saturday classes, which may mean devoting more out-of-pocket resources to "cram" schools, tutoring, and online courses to ensure academic preparedness for students.

The debate over time equaling results seems to call into question something that's been touched on in discussions on expanded learning time on this blog: time added vs. time added well. How do you add time effectively to see results? It's a topic we'll be looking at further in a webinar on expanded learning I'll be moderating on August 10.

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